THE DECOY PARATROOPER DUMMY HISTORY SITE !
A Web Site Dedicated To Documenting The Known Factual History Of Military Decoy Paratrooper Dummies. This site is an ongoing labor of love and a true "work in progress." It is usually under contruction as more material is found and added.
Welcome to The Decoy Paratrooper Dummy Web Site!
This site was developed to help researchers find historically accurate information about the relatively obscure, yet fascinating, subject of Military Decoy Paratrooper Dummies (a.k.a.
There is currently very little information on the web about this subject and most of what does exist is often inaccurate. This web site will attempt to fill that gap with accurate, properly researched facts.
The Paradummy site grows and changes whenever more information is documented. New information from any source is always welcome. All information posted here is currently believed to be true, accurate and verifiable via legitimate documentation. However, as with all subjects in history, things can and do change on occasion as new details emerge - so all information posted here will remain open to change and new interpretation at all times.
GERMAN PARADUMMIES 1940:
The first known use of the Paratrooper Dummy occurred in 1940, during WW II, when the German Airborne used "straw-filled" paradummies to make their invasion of the Low Countries look larger than it actually was.
The paradummies did in fact help cause panic and fear in the successful invasion. No surviving examples of these paradummies have yet been found so details about them are scarce. It is known however that the German Airborne also utilized straw-filled paradummies at various points later in the war - including against the Americans in the Ardennes (Battle Of The Bulge.)
The Americans went off on wild goose chases due to this successful deception, finding only dummies and a few German prisoners.
The Germans are reported to have experimented with attaching "smoke pots" to paradummies to help the deception appear more real once they hit the ground, but it is believed this idea never went beyond the testing phase.
BRITISH PARADUMMIES 1942:
The first known use of paradummies by the Allies occurred during the British invasion of the Vichy French in 1942 at Madagascar. The invasion was called "Operation Ironclad."
During Ironclad, the British used paradummies as a decoy deception while they conducted amphibious assaults in another location (very similar to what would be done two years later on D-Day 1944.)
No known examples of these 1942 paradummies are known to exist so detailed information about them is scarce. It is assumed that they were probably similar to the small "Rupert" stuffed-burlap paradummies the British later used to great effect on D-Day June 6th, 1944, during Operation Titanic.
AMERICAN "TEST" PARADUMMIES 1943:
The first American paradummies seem to have been a "test" version developed in 1943. At the time, the U.S. Navy was in charge of deception operations so they developed and tested a small 18" paradummy made of solid cast metal (seemingly of lead or perhaps a fairly heavy alloy "pot metal.")
It is believed that only ten of these little paradummies were made for the test, which was carried out at Chesapeake Bay in 1943. A Navy torpedo bomber was used to drop the paradummies over Chesapeake Bay using small scale-sized parachutes. Witnesses were stationed on the beach and told to write up reports regarding how realistic these little paradummies appeared while airborne.
Unfortunately, the test was deemed a failure. All reports stated that the little dummies appeared too small, and were too heavy in their scale parachutes, to appear real in the air.
So the Navy went back to the drawing board and designed a four-foot tall inflatable rubber paradummy which tested much better and was eventually used in combat zones in Europe and the Philippines.
Four of the original ten 18" test paradummies have been located thus far (all in the U.S.) so very accurate physical details about them are known.
Oddly, these 18" U.S. test dummies were molded with the appearance of tiny pilots. They had pilot-style helmet, heavy jacket with thick collar and two large front pockets, short neck scarf, thick gloves, heavy pants tucked into tall boots, with arms folded up against the chest as if gripping a parachute harness.
The overall effect appears to resemble an old-fashioned pilot, in heavy flight garb, who has "bailed out." These dummies also have a slight resemblance to the famous Hollywood "Oscar" statuette which is given out at the Academy Awards. It is possible that this is why the paradummy first got it's nickname "Oscar."
The test paradummies had circular wire "hooks" on each shoulder which appear to be where their parachute shroud lines were attached (though none of these 18" paradummies have actually been found with a parachute still attached.)
The test paradummies also had a small vertical wire at the front waist which may have been used to secure a small canvas belt (one paradummy of this type has been found with a belt attached in this manner - it is unknown if this belt is original to the paradummy, but it appears to be.)
The original paint job of these test dummies is not currently known due to the fact that the four which have been located thus far each has a different paint job. One is painted entirely olive drab. Another is painted gold with black boots and helmet (which surely does not appear to be the original paint job), another was found painted like a pilot with blue helmet and gloves, black jacket, brown pants, white boots and even a flesh tone face with black mustache! The other was found partially damaged, with it's paint stripped away. There seems to be bits of dark paint (black or dark brown) and bits of lighter green paint left on it. The damage appears to suggest it had been out in the elements for many years or perhaps even under water a while, then maybe cleaned off with a wire brush.
At this time, six of the original ten American test paradummies are still MIA. However, the owner of the olive drab paradummy claims he once had two of these, identical, both painted olive drab, but he sold one years ago and it has been missing since. Therefore, it is safe to assume at least one more little paradummy is known to exist out there somewhere in the U.S., painted olive drab. This would mean at least five original 18" test paradummies are known to have survived the war era to present day (but only four are currently located.) Hopefully the rest will turn up in time.
BRITISH PARADUMMIES D-DAY JUNE 6, 1944:
The British carried out the most famous of all paradummy missions during the early hours of D-Day June 5/6th, 1944. The paradummy operation was code-named "Titanic" and involved dropping hundreds of paradummies along the French coast to confuse and deceive the Germans as to where the actual Allied Airborne drops would occur.
Seven brave SAS men jumped along with the paradummies to make a lot of noise on the ground, play combat recordings, make small attacks on German troops (like couriers) and generally help make the landings appear real to the Germans. This is surely one of the best kept secrets of WWII involving sheer bravery amongst Allied Special Operations soldiers, out there on their own behind enemy lines.
The Titanic operation worked well and actually caused a good number of German troops to spread out away from the real landing areas - the operation is credited with surely reducing many Allied casualties as a result.
There are many surviving examples of original British D-Day paradummies so physical details are available. These dummies, which have come to be known as "Ruperts" (as opposed to the American "Oscars") were made of simple stuffed burlap sack cloth. They were filled with sand, straw, or wood shavings and were attached to small scale sized parachutes. They were small, only about 3 feet tall, and could be dressed in actual small uniforms.
A few original D-Day Ruperts, which were actually dropped during Operation Titanic, can be found these days in war museums in the U.S. and in Europe and in the hands of a few lucky private collectors. There was also several left over vintage crates of these paradummies found in storage at an old English airfield in the 1980's. These unissued, mint condition original Rupert paradummies, are often found at collector's shows and auction web sites. They are originals from the era, but were never actually dropped during the war.
AMERICAN PARADUMMIES 1944:
After the 1943 failure of the ten little 18" American Test Paradummies, the Navy went back to the drawing board to come up with a better design. The result was a rather high-tech, four-foot tall inflatable rubber paradummy called the "PD Pack." The PD Pack dummy (a simple codename meaning "Paratrooper Dummy Pack") is the first and only known American paradummy used in WW II combat zones.
The PD Pack, also called "Oscar" on occasion, was made to inflate via attached CO2 bottle after being pitched from the plane. It was also rigged with a sound device that simulated small arms fire. Finally, it carried a block of TNT so that when it landed it would explode, thus leaving an empty parachute for the enemy to assume was actually used by a live paratrooper. The TNT blocks also doubled as "booby traps" for any Germans who found the dummies.
The PD Pack dummy was actually manufactured with the intent to use them for the D-Day operations of June 1944; however, historical records suggest they may never have actually been utilized as planned on D-Day June 6th, 1944. Instead they were used later in August, 1944 during Operation Anvil/Dragoon in Southern France. Records suggest the PD Pack was also used later in the Philippines against the Japanese.
The precise reason the rubber dummies may not have been used on D-Day is unknown, but it may be as simple as the fact that the British already had their own dummies (Ruperts) for Operation Titanic - so they simply decided to use the Ruperts instead of the American PD Pack dummies.
The PD Pack rubber paradummies were put together in a rubber factory in the North East owned by George Freedman. Then they were transported to Switlik Parachute Company in New Jersey, the lead contractor for the paradummy project in the U.S., where they were assembled and packed.
The dummies were folded into "chest parachute packs" along with their CO2 bottles and scale sized parachutes, then they were shipped to the Navy where they were rigged with their sound devices and TNT blocks, then shipped overseas as needed. When pitched from the plane, a static line would yank open the parachute pack, deploy the dummy & chute, and trigger the CO2 inflation bottle.
Unfortunately, there are no known surviving examples of the original PD Pack paradummies. In fact, Dick Switlik and George Freedman both searched the world for decades after the war trying to find even one single original rubber dummy they had helped manufacture, but neither ever found one. It is assumed that the PD Pack paradummies were either all lost during the war, scavenged for their useable parts, or burned/buried/hidden by locals who found them at the time. It is also possible that if there were any left in storage after the war, perhaps they were simply destroyed by the U.S. military when the PD Pack dummy was replaced by a newer model paradummy in the late 1940's/1950's.
All known examples of this paradummy which are now found in several war museums of the world, are "reproductions" based on original designs which were made and donated by George Freedman or Dick Switlik decades after the war.
Dick Switlik still swears that his rubber paradummies were used on D-Day June 6th, 1944. Some of the museums, which Switlik donated reproduction PD Packs to, still embrace this story and post it with their donated displays. However, all known historical records show that only the British Ruperts were actually dropped for D-Day. The PD Packs were first officially used later in August, 1944.
It remains an interesting mystery that plenty of original British Rupert dummies can be found, but none of the original American PD Pack rubber dummies have been located yet. We certainly hope that one or more are still out there somewhere waiting to be found.
MARKET-GARDEN PARADUMMIES 1944:
Several accounts by British pilots indicate that paradummies were dropped by British planes during Operation Market Garden (large Allied Airborne invasion of Holland.) However, it is not known for sure which type of dummy was dropped. Since the British handled the paradummy mission, they probably used their stuffed burlap Rupert dummies, as opposed to American rubber dummies, but no specific documentation has yet been located to find out for certain.
AMERICAN PLASTER/FOLDABLE PARADUMMY LATE 1940'S/1950'S/1960's:
After WW II, the American military realized that the PD Pack needed design improvements. The PD Pack often failed to deploy properly due to the complex CO2 bottle inflation, and it required night use because it did not look real enough. To resolve these issues, the Army Corps of Engineers took over for the U.S. Navy and began developing a brand new Oscar. They came up with a very realistic looking paradummy made of wire frame with almost life sized plaster molded head (complete with helmet) and plaster molded combat boots. The spring action body simply folded in half for easy transport and deployment and it also wore a permanent olive drab uniform made of real cloth.
These dummies were utilized in Korea by Airborne units. It is also believed that the CIA used them in Guatemala during anti-communist operations there (the CIA evidently attempted to deceive certain groups into thinking a large Airborne force was dropping in.) It is believed that some of these foldable plaster dummies, now relics left over from the 50's, were used in the 1960's against the Viet Cong during Viet Nam deception missions (by Special Operations units like SOG and Navy Beach Jumpers.) In Viet Nam it seems the dummies were mostly utilized for ambush purposes to lure the enemy into a specific place where they could be readily attacked.
“THE LONGEST DAY” MOVIE PROP PARADUMMY 1962:
No single factor in history has
served to confuse the facts about the use of paradummies in WWII more than the 1962
Hollywood movie called “The Longest Day.” This classic war film about D-Day, though
generally well done, and perhaps the only film to ever bring the paradummy into the public
eye, mixed up the basic history of the paradummy so badly that it has taken many years
since then to undue the damage it caused.
To this day, there is still a great amount of
misinformation out there, accepted as gospel, all caused directly or indirectly by unknowing folks
watching this film.
Here is the real story of the Longest Day Paradummies:
In the early 1960’s, when the film was being researched, the writers evidently grabbed bits and pieces of various factual paradummy details and tossed them all together into what was
eventually shown in the film. So though based on some factual information, the story that ends up being
shown in the film is quite historically inaccurate.
The Longest Day filmmakers created a bunch of “prop dummies” for the film which were to be used as special visual effects to “fill out” the large Airborne Landing scenes in the film. They filmed a bunch of the dummies coming down in their parachutes amidst real human paratroopers (the dummies can be easily spotted in these scenes upon close examination of the film.) The dummies helped to make the big action sequences look larger than was possible to portray with real paratroopers. For this reason the dummies were made to look highly realistic.
The film crew also used these same fiberglass dummies for a second purpose: They served as “props” to represent the British “Rupert” paradummies in several scenes. This is where the confusion sets in and the historical accuracy goes out the window.
First of all, the movie prop dummies were made of very rigid molded fiberglass and were far more detailed than any real WWII paradummies ever were. Secondly, the paradummies were called “rubber dummies” by the characters in the film. In reality, only the British “Rupert” stuffed-burlap paradummies have been
positively verified as being used on D-Day.
Historical records suggest that the American
rubber inflatable “PD Pack” paradummies were not used until the invasion of Southern France in August of 1944 (during Operation Anvil/Dragoon), and they were used again later in the Philippines against the Japanese. But every character in the movie who deals with the Longest Day dummies insists on calling the Rupert dummies “rubber dummies” instead of burlap dummies.
Another problem with the paradummy portrayal in the film is the idea that these dummies were dropped into action all by themselves. In fact, seven very brave British SAS troopers jumped along with the paradummies to help make noise on the ground. The SAS men played combat recordings, set off smoke and gunpowder odor effects, fired their own weapons, and harassed the Germans wherever possible in order to make the dummy drop
deception more effective.
These few SAS men completed an extremely dangerous and vital mission all alone, well behind enemy lines, yet they were completely omitted from the paradummy scenes in the film! Also, two of the several planes used during the Titanic paradummy missions were lost to enemy fire and this was not in
The film made the paradummy mission look like a simple risk-free tossing of dummies out the
door. The opposite was true. Titanic was a dangerous and deadly, yet vitally important secret mission. The men who fought and died in the air and on the ground in support of Operation Titanic directly prevented countless other Allied casualties by their brave actions. The Longest Day ignores these men.
Finally, after the filming was completed in 1962, most of the prop dummies were left in French film studios and storage facilities. Over the years, a few of these rare prop dummies found their way into the collector’s market and even into war museums in
Europe and the U.S. As a result, these fiberglass prop paradummies are still often mistaken
for the real WWII paradummies despite the fact that they look nothing like the originals!
But despite all the negatives, The Longest Day did one huge favor for all paradummies - it got them recognized by the general public. Until that time, paradummies were just an obscure footnote of WWII, a fascinating yet vital deception tactic that only a handful of veterans
truly appreciated - and perhaps owed their very lives too. After 1962, paradummies finally started to get some historical recognition. In fact, I myself first became aware of the paradummy as a child when I first saw The Longest Day - I have been captivated by them
ever since and eventually decided to fully document their entire accurate story for the modern world to appreciate. The Internet has been an amazing research tool in this effort.
MODERN AMERICAN PARADUMMIES 1960's-2002:
Over the years, the military has improved the Oscar paradummy a great deal. They are now reportedly made of PVC plastic and look like "huge GI Joe dolls", very life-like in form and larger size, still foldable evidently. However, none are known to exist outside the military due to their highly classified nature.
These newer dummies were used in the Gulf War by Special Forces to lure Iraqis out into the open where they were ambushed by air strike. They are likely being used in Afghanistan currently for the same purpose. They are also used during large "war game" training when various friendly military units practice against each other.
The paratrooper riggers who are in charge of "care and feeding of Oscars" are evidently sworn to secrecy due to the highly classified nature of their work. Would love to see a photo of these new Oscars some day.
FOREIGN ARMY PARADUMMIES:
Paradummies seem to have become standard deception equipment in most modern armies of the world. Research indicates they were used by the Russians in the 1980's in Afghanistan; and by the Ethiopian Air Force as recently as 2000. No information has currently been found as to what these paradummies may look like.
A WORD ABOUT MILITARY "ANTHROPOMORPHIC" PARADUMMIES:
As early as the late 1940's, the military began testing parachute systems using anthropomorphic test dummies. These highly advanced paradummies simulated human beings just as "crash test dummies" are used in auto, plane and ejection seat testing.
They are shown and mentioned on this web site only because they are sometimes confused with Military Decoy Paratrooper Dummies. However, "anthro test dummies" are a totally different type of dummy used for a totally different purpose. They are for safety testing only - not for deception. They simply stand in for humans until the systems they utilize are deemed safe enough for humans to use.
Follow links below to view some interesting photos of various paradummy types.